Marissa Mekelburg Functional Medicine Dietitian
How Long Does It Take to Heal Leaky Gut?
Updated: Apr 3, 2022
How long does it take to heal leaky gut? Are miracle pills or potions the answer?
And is leaky gut even a real thing?
As a functional nutrition registered dietitian, I am here to bust some myths and provide you with the evidence-based information you need to empower you (yes, you) to cultivate your best gut health.
This article covers it all: what is leaky gut, what causes it and most importantly: how long does it really take to heal leaky gut.
Let’s dive in!
Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut is a condition that is on more and more of our radars lately. And as folks are learning how important it is to cultivate gut health, a common question I’m getting is “how long does it take to heal leaky gut?”
And I hate to start on a grumpy foot, but I prefer to use the scientific term for leaky gut: increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability.
Because our small intestine is actually always a bit "leaky" (semi permeable); this is normal digestion and absorption. We have to be able to get the nutrition from our food into our body to be able to use it which means these nutrients go from being in the small intestine to in the bloodstream by crossing the mucosa.
The trouble brews if your intestines become too leaky. Food particles that are not digested enough, pathogens and other “bad guys” can get into your body and cause inflammation.
What causes leaky gut?
What causes increased intestinal permeability? Unfortunately, a lot of things these days.
Our intestinal lining is living, dynamic tissue that continuously regenerates every few days. It is composed of several layers of tissue, blood vessels, lymphatic tissue and a whole lot of immune cells, keeping guard.
In our modern, hectic lifestyle, we are exposed to continued environmental factors that take a toll on our gut health.
Let’s explore this with a quick analogy:
A brand new fence will keep your dog securely in your backyard, other neighborhood pets out and you can choose when to open or close the gate. But what if a tree fell on that fence and knocked part of it down? Now there is a gap and your dog is no longer being kept in and other neighborhood pets are no longer being kept out. Regulating who comes and goes through the gate is no longer working due to the gap in the fence.
The good news? Just like a fence can be repaired, your gut health can be repaired, too.
Photo by Gustavo Zambelli on Unsplash
In our lives, having chronic stress, not sleeping soundly, eating a less-than-optimal diet, genetics, infection and even medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) can all stress the natural ability of your gut to regulate how permeable it is.
And if it took years to develop your symptoms, your journey to healing will not be accomplished in a few short weeks. As much as I wish I could offer fast solutions to complete healing, I know from experience that this is slow and steady work. It can take months.
But let me tell you: nothing is more rewarding than partnering with my clients to win their health back.
So, how long does it take to heal leaky gut?
First stop: managing acute symptoms - let’s cover that first.
Short term solutions (managing symptoms)
First things first: we need to manage any acute symptoms that are making your life miserable right now.
How does freedom from emergency dashes to the bathroom sound?
Short term: it is powerful to be able to calm down the immune system. An elimination diet might help to soothe your digestive tract.
One example of an elimination diet you may have heard of is the Low-FODMAP diet. Another is AIP. Do keep in mind that it is possible to be on an elimination diet for too long (especially if you continue to try one after another. More about that, here.)
(Pssst: you can read more about calming an IBS flare on this blog post)
Getting down to root causes
We have to know that is the root cause in order to have any hope of true healing.
Increased intestinal permeability can go hand in hand with many conditions, especially IBS. IBS, SIBO and other conditions are ones that can quickly come on back if conditions are right.
Do you have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)? A Diagnosis of IBS? Undiagnosed celiac disease? Food sensitivities and intolerances on top of autoimmune conditions?
Or maybe you have an issue related to your medications or had an infection?
These effects can compound if you’re experiencing more than one. The human body doesn’t just “fall apart” overnight, things compound slowly, sometimes so slowly that you don’t even realize that you’re not feeling your best.
For example, did you know that it is common for people with one autoimmune condition to have more? Twenty-five percent of folks with an autoimmune condition will be more prone to developing three or more autoimmune conditions altogether - yikes (1).
And the truth is, you may have been suffering – with compounding symptoms – for years. One symptom or condition can make you more vulnerable or susceptible to additional, other conditions. Dang!
This is why it is so very important to do careful digging to get down to root causes: you can’t hope to prevent relapse if you don’t know why these conditions are happening to begin with.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
What’s the quick fix or magic potion to heal leaky gut?
Is that the sound of crickets chirping?
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes or magic cures to healing leaky gut. As much as gluten is vilified and probiotics are heralded, those simple answers aren’t the real path to healing for most people with increased intestinal permeability.
Healing the gut is like peeling back layers of onion: you address one aspect and it can bring to light something else. And if that sounds negative, I like to see this as an opportunity to further help your body to achieve homeostasis.
Ok: Tell me now: How long does it take to heal leaky gut?
I mean: how long does it take to heal increased intestinal permeability? Realistically, it can take months.
Slow and steady, folks. This is a journey that will deliberately cultivate your best health. For my practice, I start with a minimum commitment of three months for new clients.
As a clinician, my role is to set realistic expectations for true recovery. And while I have many tools to use to get down to the real root causes of your intestinal permeability, know that it can take months, even a year, to walk this journey together.
As much as I wish I could wave a magic wand to relieve your symptoms or tell you to just eliminate gluten, gut health isn’t that simple. And you should be wary of anyone promising a quick fix.
I like to share with my clients that the gut isn't like a broken arm that gets casted and unused for six to eight weeks to heal. We still need to eat! We can't avoid it’s job to digest our food.
This is no different than a cut on your finger: the first day or two it's red, swollen and hurts but by day 3, it's feeling better. Is it healed? Not quite: it's going to take another 4-5 days to truly be healed.
And as much as I’d love for things to be faster, healing does take time and deliberate action. Unfortunately, it's unrealistic to have been suffering with symptoms for several years and expect a full recovery in a few weeks.
Photo by John Thomas on Unsplash
On the path to recovery, you’ll have better days mixed with symptomatic days: this is normal and to be expected. Health isn’t a straight path, it meanders! And testing foods to see which ones are a good fit for you, right now, is powerful information.
As a Certified Leap Therapist (CLT), I have an amazing tool in my tool box for helping clients to feel better fast, which is a great start on the healing journey.
I’m ready to be your partner and guide to healing your increased intestinal permeability; you deserve to feel great. Let’s set up a Discovery Session so that we can chat!